Don't create ads that will be blocked, create content that's read instead
By Ian Robson
As more and more people use ad blockers, now is the time to develop a high quality content strategy to give your audience exactly what they want.
Many years ago I learned of the ‘accepted’ industry standard click-through rate for online display ads – I was (maybe naively) shocked! I then proceeded to be appalled at the growing use of click-baiting and SEO gaming to drive traffic numbers, as a means to deliver decent volume against those pitiful conversion rates for advertisers. This was exasperated further when sites started serving as many display ads around and through content as was possible. That led to the inevitable dog’s dinner content pages and those annoying multi-page efforts that artificially drove page and ad impressions up, while ignoring the needs of an audience keen to simply read the content.
For several years now users and device manufacturers have taken matters into their own hands, with the continued growth in ad blocker use moving its deployment from early users into the mainstream. Towards the end of 2015, ad blocking growth was nearly 40% year on year, with up to 30% of ad impressions being blocked. These figures are continuing to grow further through increased mainstream deployment with the revenue implications for ad supported sites increasingly woeful indeed!
If you ever needed any more evidence that your audience is content keen, then let’s just call ad blocking the sledgehammer that the industry needed. But content has to be paid for by someone, so what can you do?
If, and only if, your main content stream is worthy and compelling enough could you possibly hope to gain sympathetic success through explaining your need to finance the content and so asking your audience to whitelist your site in their ad blocker. A tactic deployed by some niche sites quite effectively, especially when the ads being served are less intrusive, carefully chosen to be pertinent, and even useful to their audiences. But high traffic volume and broad content sites have too many personalities to keep happy to hope this would work for them. Paywalls and voluntary one off payments are another option, but again not for everyone, especially if you need regular, sustainable and forecastable commercial streams.
Fix the ads!
The internet advertising industry has started to take responsibility for its previous offences, with the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) recently launching its LEAN ads programme to promote Light, Encrypted, Ad Choice Supported, and Non-Invasive Ads.
Honestly though, it’s too late to recover the lost trust, perceived relevancy and potential entertainment that consumers may have once had in display ads. But there is still some truth in a statement made by former AOL UK Managing Director, Hamish Nicklin: “People don’t want to block adverts per se – they want to block irrelevant interruptions that have no value”.
Pandora’s ad blocking tool box is well and truly open, empowering the first tier of influential internet users, and with the second and third tiers soon to be empowered also. The days for traditional display advertising are well and truly numbered, but that certainly doesn’t mean the end of good quality content sites.
New, innovative, informed and semantic ad formats as well as other commercial endeavours will pop up to eventually replace the declining and lost revenues of traditional display advertising. And if there’s one thing that’s shaken up the online advertising industry for the better, it’s that commercial endeavours need to work with a great content strategy and not against it!
That Media Thing prides itself in putting the quality of content first in any marketing strategy that we propose to a client. And we’re not afraid to price it at a premium too as we know how valuable domain expertise and compelling story-telling combined with a data-informed, socially savvy content strategy can be.
This post is 1 of 5 reasons why a quality content strategy is all that matters now. Click on one of the links below to read another:
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